Director David Giancola, known for straight-to-video and TV-movie cheese, intended Anna Nicole Smith’s B-movie swan song, Illegal Aliens, as a self-aware sci-fi spoof of Charlie’s Angels, and throughout his follow-up documentary, Addicted to Fame, he talks about the film as if he thought he was making the B-movie equivalent of Fellini’s 8½. Conceived as a behind-the-scenes depiction of Illegal Aliens’s problematic production and tricky release in the wake of Smith’s legal troubles and death, the doc is little more than a bitter, self-aggrandizing director’s finger-pointing rebuttal to the failure of his film.
Predictably, the stunt casting of Smith, who invested money in Illegal Aliens to gain a producer’s credit and, to the screenwriter’s chagrin, attempted to rewrite some of the screenplay, backfired, as she was unable to remember more than two lines at a time, seldom made it to set on time, and, after the film wrapped, her much-publicized personal life cast both a light and a shadow over the project. Giancola believes Addicted to Fame will unveil the absurd ways in which Illegal Aliens and the film’s marketing push fell apart, but his evidence consists only of exploitative footage of Smith and simple-minded assertions that Access Hollywood and Entertainment Tonight are bastions of trashy tabloid journalism.
Rather than investigate the underbelly of tabloid culture, the naïve Giancola simply pursues how he felt as the buzz surrounding Illegal Aliens rose and fell in tandem with the media’s coverage of Smith’s court battles and death. He relishes in the free publicity he receives, from Howard Stern to E!, due to Smith’s involvement in the film, then lambasts media outlets—even local newspapers—for not “getting” the finished product. With this navel-gazing doc, an accumulation of unfortunate circumstances repositioned as a national disaster, it’s difficult to shake the feeling that the title actually applies to Giancola more than Smith.
Attempting to play off the savviness he claims to have accumulated while dealing with the debacle of promoting a parodic comedy after the death of its star (she died on the day of Illegal Aliens’s special sneak preview in a small town in upstate New York, which was quickly canceled), Giancola is still unable to find any novel insight into the crass media opportunism he criticizes, and yet hypocritically plays into. Addicted to Fame is the cinematic equivalent of staging a disaster and then bitching about the mess.